Student Loans are Flawed in Wales

By: Sarah Othman


Welsh graduates are saying the pay-as-you-earn system for paying back student loans is flawed. Graduates from Welsh universities are claiming that they have over-paid their student debts due to faults with the system. Some former students have also said that they've had money taken from their salary before they have reached high enough earnings to warrant it.

In the US where the system for getting student loans is different, people are concerned that the current economic climate will affect student loan availability. And indeed, some US lenders are pulling out. But here in the UK, it's another worry affecting students. Student loans shouldn't be affected by the credit crunch but plenty of disgruntled students are finding the high number of administration problems which dog their repayments frustrating.

The National Union of Students (NUS) is confident that the system is not working and has put forward new findings to the government. However, HM Revenue and Customs argue that it is up to the graduates themselves to monitor payments and assure that they pay the correct amount at the right time.

Thousands of students take out loans each year to help pay for the costs incurred while studying and most students will pay back their loans using the existing pay-as-you-earn system. Funds are deducted from the former student's pay each month before they are awarded it. When a student begins to earn more than 15,000 a year, a small percentage is taken, depending on how much over the threshold their earnings are.

Employers collate the cash and send it to the HM Revenues Service at the end of each tax year, which then passes on the money to the Student Loans Company. Up to 8 months later students are then sent a statement which tells them how much money was received. However, because HM Revenues service is just a middle man and has no access to details, it will continue taking funds until instructed to stop by the Student Loans Company.

Graduates are claiming that keeping track of how much loan they have paid off can be difficult. In a BBC article it was revealed that: "Teacher Rhian Morgan from Swansea had been paying back her ?16,000 debt despite only working in a part time job. But in her statement from the Student Loans Company at the end of the tax year in 2003, it said that no payments had been made."

Last month a report in the mail on Sunday said that: "The Company that bought more than ?1bn of student loans from the Government in the late Nineties is coming under increasing fire over its shoddy administration." And that: "Message boards on consumer websites are carrying comments from former students venting their anger about Honours Student Loans."

The National Union of Students has called for the system to be made more transparent, flawless and flexible. The Student Loans Company have said that changes are currently under way to make the repayment system easier for borrowers.

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